The Diocese of Nashville has launched a website with resources individuals and parishes can use to participate in a worldwide synod on synodality.
The website is dioceseofnashville.com/synod, and includes frequently asked questions, homilies on the synod by Pope Francis and Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding, various documents on the synod, small group discussion questions to be used by parishes, and a survey.
Everything is available in both English and Spanish.
The synod is a two-year process that will lead to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, with the theme “For a Synodal Church: communion, participation and mission,” in October 2023.
“What Pope Francis’ call for a worldwide synod affords us is the opportunity to reflect on how we, as the People of God, can continue to grow in the spirit of synodality,” said Dr. Brad Peper, the director of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. “The Holy Father’s invitation is a time of ecclesial introspection for us to realize more clearly the fullness of the Church and her mission.”
Peper and Erin Stracener, director of the diocesan Tribunal, have been designated by Bishop Spalding as the co-contacts to facilitate the synod process for the diocese.
“Each parish has been asked to name a facilitator to work with us,” Stracener said. The parish facilitators will share information about the synod process with their communities as well as organize and lead small group discussions.
Among the synod discussion questions are:
- In our parish, do we have active participation in the sacramental life of the Church? What would help strengthen this participation?
- Does our parish foster a Spirit-filled sense of belonging with and among the laity, new members, and visitors? How might we make the parish more welcoming and cohesive?
- How well does our parish foster lay participation in the life of the Church (i.e. volunteers, extraordinary ministers, etc.)? How might we increase such participation more fully?
- Within the parish, what initiatives or outreach programs exist to foster the faith among Catholics (both those who are actively and passively practicing their faith)? How are we evangelizing those with no religious affiliation? What other programs might be helpful in this endeavor?
- Does our parish engage in dialogue with non-Catholic Christians and/or those of other faith traditions in order to promote the common good? How can the parish improve interfaith and interreligious communication?
The synod process also includes a survey that is open to both Catholics and non-Catholics. The questions on the survey are similar to the group discussion questions and give a range of answers from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” Some of the questions include:
- Mass and other liturgical celebrations promote and cultivate a communal Church that lives out its Christian faith.
- The local Catholic community serves the family by equipping parents with the knowledge and tools to pass on the faith.
- The local Catholic community dialogues with non-Catholic Christians and/or those of other faith traditions to promote the common good.
The results of the survey and the small group discussions will be collected and compiled in a 10-page synthesis that will be posted on the synod website and provided to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB will compile all the syntheses from dioceses across the country into a report for the Vatican, which will use those reports from all the dioceses across the globe to prepare working documents for the Synod of Bishops in 2023.
The diocesan synod process will continue through June 4.
Goal and purpose of the synod
The Vatican has provided for every diocese a document, called the Vademecum, with resources to help plan the synod for the local Church. The Vademecum lays out not only how to conduct the synod process, but its goal and purpose.
“Synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us,” the Vademecum states. “Ultimately, this path of walking together is the most effective way of manifesting and putting into practice the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God.”
The synod process is guided by the question: “How does this ‘journeying together’ take place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allowing the Church to proclaim the Gospel? And what steps is the Spirit inviting us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?” according to the Vademecum.
“In parishes, small Christian communities, lay movements, religious communities, and other forms of communion, women and men, young people and the elderly, we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who comes to guide our human efforts, breathing life and vitality into the Church and leading us into deeper communion for our mission in the world,” according to the Vademecum. “As the Church embarks on this synodal journey, we must strive to ground ourselves in experiences of authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the Church that God calls us to be.”
“Synodality represents the path by which the Church can be renewed by the action of the Holy Spirit, listening together to what God has to say to his people,” the Vademecum states. “However, this journey together not only unites us more deeply with one another as the People of God, it also sends us out to pursue our mission as a prophetic witness that embraces the entire family of humanity, together with our fellow Christian denominations and other faith traditions.
“It is especially important that this listening process happen in a spiritual setting that supports openness in sharing as well as hearing,” according to the Vademecum. “For this reason, you are encouraged to root the local experience of the synodal process in meditation on Scripture, the liturgy, and prayer. In this way, our journey of listening to one another can be an authentic experience of discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit. Authentic discernment is made possible where there is time for deep reflection and a spirit of mutual trust, common faith, and a shared purpose.
“The purpose of this Synod is not to produce more documents. Rather, it is intended to inspire people to dream about the Church we are called to be, to make people’s hopes flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships, to learn from one another, to build bridges, to enlighten minds, warm hearts, and restore strength to our hands for our common mission,” the Vademecum states. “Thus, the objective of this synodal process is not only a series of exercises that start and stop, but rather a journey of growing authentically towards the communion and mission that God calls the Church to live out in the third millennium.”